Making Sense of Mysticism: When Wittgenstein Said the Unsayable

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Making Sense of Mysticism: When Wittgenstein Said the Unsayable

Lewis Coyne

Quote:Wittgenstein’s mysticism is remarkable partly because he leads us there via an austere philosophy of language and logical analysis. Not only does this create a striking contrast between his arguments and their conclusions, but it also makes Wittgenstein well-placed to persuade a skeptical mind of the credibility of mystical experiences.

So what did he argue?

Quote:The Vienna Circle’s extreme enterprise was, they claimed, partly justified by Wittgenstein’s distinction between language that successfully pictures facts making up the world and language that fails to do so and therefore counts as nonsense. To the Vienna Circle, religious, metaphysical, and mystical language were all examples of the latter—mere nonsense.

But this was actually a complete misunderstanding of what Wittgenstein was arguing. Because, in fact, he wanted to identify and hold open the space of meaning occupied by the mystical.

Quote:Unbeknownst to Russell, Wittgenstein’s interest in monastic life was down to several mystical experiences he’d had. And the most valued of these—Wittgenstein’s “experience par excellence”—was being overwhelmed in wonder at the fact that the world exists

Perhaps you’ve felt this way too, even just once...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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